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Basketball Feature

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by housejd, Jun 11, 2007.

  1. housejd

    housejd Member

    Nothing groundbreaking, and certainly not my best work. But I'm interested in all types of feedback. FYI, I had to write the entire thing off of phone interviews as in-person interviews were not granted ...

    STATE COLLEGE - Unless you count the three games Coquese Washington filled in for an ill Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame, Washington had no head-coaching experience before Penn State hired her.

    But now, though she is still a rookie, it would be unfair to say Washington has no head-coaching experience. Technically, she's had 40 days of it as of yesterday. She's been hard at work, balancing recruiting with meetings and getting to know her team.

    "I'm pretty much going from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I wind it down in the evening," said Washington, who was hired to replace Rene Portland on April 23. "As long as I'm awake, I'm pretty much doing stuff."

    All the work is aimed at resuscitating the Lady Lion program, which has suffered through two straight losing seasons.

    "I feel very confident in saying that all of us have in mind that we want to return the program to the level it has traditionally played at and being at the NCAA tournament and being on that high competitive level," Washington said. "You don't come to a place like Penn State and not want to be successful."

    The Lady Lions will have to do it without star forward Amanda Brown, The Canadian, and her 15 doubles-doubles, graduated in May.

    And while Penn State returns two-time team captain Kam Gissendanner (12.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last year), junior point guard Brianne O'Rourke (4.3 assists per game) and sophomore guard Tyra Grant (14.6 points per game), it has no proven frontcourt threat.

    Junior forward Courtney Molinaro transferred to Lehigh this spring, leaving Penn State with just two post players with college experience. Junior forward Rashida Mark averaged just 11 minutes last year and sophomore forward Brittany Monroe was used sparingly.

    But because this is the offseason, Washington can't put her players through any work on the court. The players can run through plays on their own, but coaches can't be present.

    Washington has been using the down time meeting with her players. She wants to know what makes them tick -- how they think and how they respond to adversity and triumph.

    "There's a big relationship aspect that we've got to cover some ground with," Washington said.

    Sometimes those meetings entail lunch on campus or a cookout. Junior point guard Brianne O'Rourke said Washington even brought potential assistant coaches to eat with the players so they could have some input on the coaching staff.

    "She's really helping us adjust to her," O'Rourke said. "We had dinner as a team a couple times, some cookouts. I feel like she's really getting to know us. It already has been a month. It doesn't seem like that."

    But it has been, and it's been a busy one for Washington. Without a home in State College, she has been traveling between Indiana and Pennsylvania.

    Early on, Washington had to shoulder the entire workload. But now that she has completed her staff -- Itoro Coleman, Kia Damon and former Lady Lion Maren Walseth -- life hasn't been nearly as hectic.

    Washington said she'll focus on recruiting this summer. She started by retaining three recruits who committed when Portland was coach, including forward Julia Troegle of Villa Maria Academy, the same high school as Portland.

    Washington wants to add at least one post player and point guard for the coming season. And she hasn't ruled out the possibility of adding a walk-on.

    The former Notre Dame point guard turned to McGraw and Northern Illinois women's coach Carol Owens for advice during her crash course in head coaching.

    Still, the Lady Lions don't see any inexperience in the 36-year-old Washington.

    "She has such high credentials. I can't see how see how we could have passed her up as far as being our coach," said Gissendanner, who served on the search committee that recommended Washington. "She just brings a lot of high energy, a lot of positive things to say to us. It's definitely nice and refreshing, her being like that."

    Washington doesn't feel any extra pressure to prove herself, either.

    "If I came in here with 20 years of experience, I think the expectations would be the same," she said. "People want us to win and they want us to be a competitive team. I don't think I need to do anything magical or mystical or anything like that."

    And for the record, Washington was successful in those three Notre Dame games as McGraw's substitute. She finished 2-1.

    "If nothing more, that time let me know that I was ready to take on the responsibilities and duties of a head coach," she said. "It was definitely tough, but it showed me that I could handle it."

    NOTES: The Lady Lions will have a contest to rename the popular kids' club, Rene's Dunkers. All those entering grades 1-8 are eligible and must enter suggestions by June 20. The winner will receive a membership to the club for the 2007-08 season and be the Kid on the Bench for Penn State's home opener. ... Sophomore guard Meggan Quinn is ahead of schedule on her recovery from a torn ACL and MCL in her right knee that forced her to miss the final seven games of the season. Washington said Quinn should be able to play at some point next season. ... Former Lady Lion standout Kathy Drysdale was named women's basketball coach at Penn State Abington yesterday. She played at Penn State from 1988-92.
  2. In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood Member

    First time posting in the writer's workshop, but I'll take a stab at it, since I'm hoping to start posting my own work soon.
    Keep in mind I'm not very long in the tooth yet. These suggestions come from someone who has a lot to learn himself. But here goes. (my thoughts in italics)

    overall, I liked it. Perhaps you could show a little more... for example, in the second graf you talk about balancing everything from meetings to recruting... offer an example. (I know the quote says she's there all day, but show that) does she have to eat lunch at her desk? does the night security guard have to let her out at midnight? Show the long hours and balancing act somehow.

    But again, overall, I enjoyed it.
  3. housejd

    housejd Member

    Thanks, all good suggestions. I appreciate the feedback.

    Are you a recent college grad, In Cold Blood? If so, how's life treating you out the door? I have to worry about that in the next year or so, getting kinda nervous about it.
  4. In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood Member

    I am indeed fresh out of college... about three weeks into my first full-time job.

    so far, I love every minute of it. From some of the horror stories I've read on here, it seems I landed in a pretty good shop compared to some others, but going to work every day is a blast.

    the job search, on the other hand, is a nightmare... but be patient... I went forever with no calls, no leads, nothing whatsoever, and then suddenly had three or four leads pop up at once...
  5. dawgpounddiehard

    dawgpounddiehard Active Member

  6. housejd

    housejd Member

    Thanks for the feedback, Dawg. And I am a college kid, lol. And yes, I tend to be a little verbose at times. It's something I always have to work on.

    And Lady Lions, nothing I can do there. That's the team nickname. I know a lot of teams have dropped the "Lady" from nicknames. Not Penn State.
  7. Jones

    Jones Active Member


    Thanks for posting.

    I'd just like to back up Dawg on most of his comments.

    Granted, you're a yung'un, and it says a lot that you're willing to post your stuff here and you're looking for criticism: That shows you really want to get better. You'd be surprised how many young writers think they're already at the top of their game. It takes a lot of time and effort to be a good writer, and I think you understand that. You're on your way for that reason alone.

    Now, a couple of exercises, next time you write.

    Read each graf, and see if it leads into the next one -- see that nothing's dangling, that you haven't trailed off somewhere, that you haven't left the reader with any unanswered questions before moving on to the next one.

    Tom Carson, who writes columns for GQ, is really, really good at this: Every word leads into the next, every sentence, every paragraph, every section. If you do something like that, you'll have a clear story with flow and rhythm -- that should be goal number one.

    I think you were hurt by the phoners... That's never the optimal way to report a story, as I'm sure you know. I stress this all the time, but I think it's valid: Features need scenes, like a film does. They make for good ledes, they make for good finishes, they act as breadcrumbs in between, for readers to follow. I'd like to see a story where you get to use your eyes next time.

    And next time, too, write your story, and then check your word count. Say it's 500 words -- cut 50. 1000 words, cut 100. There's fat here, and fat is death for stories. Even now, fairly deep into my career, I finish a story and then I cut ten percent of it. You wouldn't believe how much that kind of discipline tightens shit up.

    As for the use of the second person... I've used it once or twice in my entire career (although I've used it plenty in this post). It's kind of a lazy construction, and unless there's a point to it -- unless there's art in it, or style in it -- then you need to get rid of it.

    All right. Hope that helps. Thanks for posting. Post your next story, too. I want to see if you're listening.
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